Monrovia — At the Stockton Creek Junction on the rugged down Somalia Drive Road on a recent Saturday, Ambray Seyon Moses, the local representative for Dai Nippon Construction in Monrovia inspects new arrivals of road construction equipment for a project long overdue and one many Liberians, particularly commuters of the busy route, have come to dread.
"We are on course, Moses says, pointing to the makeshift camp fenced by zinc, workers will be using for the next couple of years as the project gets underway.
The Project for Reconstruction of Somalia Drive in Monrovia should have actually commenced in February 2014 but glitches, including getting squatters off the property and some unforeseen delays kept the projects at bay. The project should be completed in full by March 31st 2017.
Last December, the governments of Liberia and Japan signed a US$50 million agreement for the reconstruction and expansion of the Somalia Drive in a bid to alleviate traffic congestion. The project's completion is expected to drastically reduce traffic time at peak hour between Freeport and Red Light from as long as one hour to about 20 minutes.
The scope of the work includes the widening of the existing Somalia Drive from 2-lane road to 4-lane road covering a distance of 13.2km from Free Port Junction to Red Light, the reconstruction of Stockton Bridge, improvement of drainage facility, development of parking space and bus stop and the installation of sign boards, road marking and pedestrian crossings.
The new project will also include a two-land carriage 7.3m wide; a shoulder and a 3.5 mile pedestrian road. Masahiro Nonogaki, Project Manager for DNC says the existing Stockton bridge will be demolished and replaced with a bridge- wide carriage 7.6m/ side walk 1.8m and 0.75m Length 73.6m.
The Japanese contractors will also rehabilitation of the existing bridge Shoe /Slab/ Approach slab /Hand rail, undertake drainage work of the concrete drainage and enforce a retaining wall, road marking and traffic sign. For now, the company is expecting the arrival of more equipment, until the end of July.
In recent weeks, Liberians have been growing increasingly worried about the slow pace of the project but Mr. Nonogaki says, despite the arrival of the rains, the work will commence, first with the construction of the first of two bridges and bearing any further right of way and obstruction along the Stockton Creek Bridge. Some of those obstruction issues have been resolved. Those include:
The LPRC oil pipeline along the Stockton Creek Bridge that contains oil and might spill in the future; the LEC high voltage poles and cables that hangs above the bridge and which will make it difficult for our cranes and other equipment to work efficiently; and finally the LWSC water pipeline which up to this moment we have not seen or trace any blueprint of how these pipes were layout.
Both LEC and LPRC, according to the contractors have agreed to speed up the removal of the obstacles so that the project can be completed in a timely manner. With the equipment now on the ground and Japanese contractors ready to get the job started, anticipation is high among Liberians, particularly commuters on the route, many say would revolutionize commute on a key economic link stretching from the commercial sector of Red Light in Paynesville outside Monrovia to the economic sector of Freeport on the Bushrod Island.
"I think it will change everything for everyone," Isaac Sandy, a pedestrian bystander observed. "People are eager to see traffic eased here, for once, in a very long time."